When I chose to stop drinking, I never knew it would last. What I did know was that I needed a change. I couldn’t keep going the way that I was. I barely recognized the person I had become. All the sudden, I was 27 years old with nothing to show for it and no real direction for my life. I felt drained and lost—emotionally, physically and spiritually. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to try something different. That was the day I decided to try sobriety.
The first year of not drinking for me was an emotional time with many ups and downs. It’s a time when you find out who you really are, why you drank, and how to heal without abusing alcohol. Getting sober is a little easier when you know what to expect. Here is what you can expect in your first year of sobriety.
First 30 days of sobriety
The first 30 days of sobriety might be the hardest. Depending on how you decide to stop using alcohol, you may be going through alcohol detox, alcohol addiction treatment, or attending many AA and NA meetings. Whatever recovery path you choose, the first 30 days will be a roller coaster. That means that your body will first be getting rid of all of the harmful substances. You may feel tired, sick, bloated, and anxious. During my first 30 days of sobriety, I felt bloated and exhausted, and it was weeks before I began to feel rested and normal again.
On top of physical discomfort from alcohol withdrawal, you will experience strong emotions. For many of us, alcohol numbs our feelings. I went through years without really feeling what was going on around me. In the first 30 days of my sobriety, I felt everything deeply, I cried, I laughed—my sense of smell was even deeper. You can expect that in your first 30 days, you will slowly be coming out of the fog of using drugs and alcohol. You also may question whether you’re an alcoholic or addict or not.
Three months of sobriety
When you reach 90 days of sobriety, you may feel a bit more relaxed. You may also feel sad and confused about your relationship with drugs and alcohol. Feelings of shame, guilt, and depression are all normal and can be worked through. Grieving the relationship you had with your substances of choice will begin. You’ll also begin to learn new, healthier coping mechanisms. After three months of sobriety, you’ll start to pick up a routine. Sobriety will start to become part of your daily life and things like therapy and meetings can be incorporated nicely into your schedule. Getting through each 24 hours will slowly become easier and normal to you. You’ll begin to find new hobbies that don’t include drugs or alcohol.
Six months of sobriety
The six-month mark is where we begin to feel comfortable with our sobriety, but this can also be dangerous. It’s possible you’ll experience a phenomenon called the “pink cloud” meaning you’re happy about everything and feel invincible because of your new found sobriety. Although the pink cloud feels good, it can give us an unreal sense of security. After six months, we should be aware of our triggers in sobriety. Certain people, places, and things might remind us of our using days, and we should work to avoid these things. Eventually, we may be able to be present and sober in certain situations that used to tempt us, but it’s best not to take chances in the beginning. At six months, we’ll also get our clarity back and begin to like being sober. Six months was the turning point for me; it was when I thought that I really could get used to this sobriety thing.
One year of sobriety
When you get to one year of sobriety, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief, and it’s okay to be proud of yourself. One year is a major feat. That’s 365 days without a drink or a drug. When I reached one year, I was happy and I felt accomplished. I knew that I could do something hard and let go of substances that used to rule my life. I believe one year was when I began to truly learn who I am as a person. I embraced my new sober identity, and I lived through events I never thought I could without drinking, like grief, weddings, birthdays, and other important times. You might graduate from a sober living facility and then go on to build a happy, healthy life with your family and friends. You will have found a support system via 12-step meetings or other recovery groups. One year of sobriety gives us hope that we can have continued success in our new sober lives.
One year is when I knew sobriety was for me, that I wanted to continue on this path and each year it has only gotten better. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. The first year of sobriety is the hardest and the most rewarding where you feel like a new person in a new world because you are.